Thursday, May 29, 2008
The guy sitting one chair away from me stands up, unbuckles his belt, takes off his pants, gets up on his chair, waves pants over his head like a lasso, puts pants back on, delicately hops off the chair, sits back down, and carries on typing as if we were actually in the computer lab. Huh.
An unusually well-groomed man seated directly across from me on the train blatantly picks (and by that I mean, digs all the way to his brain) his nose for the ENTIRE thirty minute ride. How much you got up there, man?! Ew.
A scraggler on the metro approaches and asks me to marry him. I give him the WTF look without actually looking at him and turn up the volume on my iPod. He proposes we run away to ______ (I didn't actually hear what country it was he said) and live the good life. My lack of enthusiasm over described proclamation of "love" is verdict enough and he eventually wanders away. Better luck next time, buddy.
I finally arrive at home to find the used, neon pink cat scratching post my French flatmate received as a recent birthday present has resurfaced in the living room. That and the Santa suit the other flatmate picked up off the street. Germs anyone? Anyone?
I kid you not, this was my Tuesday night.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Considering we didn't get to bed until 5AM, we naturally slept in and took it easy on our last day in Porto. Our agenda was simple: beach and food. That was all we really cared about.
After a quick stop at a neighborhood bakery (only 70 centimos for a gigantic ham and cheese bread thing, what!), we took the city bus to the highly anticipated praia. A very jiggly ride that lasted only 20 minutes and then BEHOLD, the mighty Atlantic Ocean. It has definitely been a few years since I've seen that thing, and what do you know, it was beauteous! We walked along the shore and climbed out onto some rocky crags where I totally got doused by an enormous wave because I was too busy setting my iPod to Seu Jorge. Haha, typical. It was glorious though, even despite being in jeans, two long sleeve shirts, a scarf, and socks and shoes with the sun beating forcefully down (all the weather reports predicted torrential rain the entire weekend!). So sweaty, but glorious.
We dined at a classy cafe on the beachfront (see below pictures). I tried a typical Porto Portuguese dish called the Francesinha practically everyone had recommended to us. Literally translated to "Little French Girl," there was absolutely nothing "little" about it. Chorizo, a few types of ham, and steak in between two slices of bread that were smothered in cheese and then doused in a tomato-ey sauce. I unfortunately boasted to Jackie that I would eat it all, then did so, and consequently couldn't move for a good few hours. Man. There was far too much packed into that deceivingly compact entree...
The second significant part of our day (after the numerous requisite naps and hammock lounging sessions, of course) was a return to the Guarany Cafe for another show. We had heard something vague about world beats and Latin-tinged stuff and immediately decided we needed to get in on that action. As it turns out, a musical group straight from Cuba (!!!) was performing that night and we were lucky enough to be seated right in the front. Yesssss. Ohmygooooodness. I was freaking out. What a fantastic time.
The music was amazing, all salsa-y and such, but the beats were painfully contagious and catchy though. Half of me was basically in heaven and I could not for the life of me wipe the silly grin off my face. The other half of me nearly wanted to cry out of nostalgia for Sunday Hot Monkey Love Cafe salsa nights with the crew. Not that any of us were professionally spectacular (well, besides Neo, but what isn't he good at?), but we had ourselves some good times. Watching all the couples whirling and twirling and salsa stepping was both beautiful and such a tease. The lead singer kept looking over and chuckling at my hardly contained excitement, occasionally motioning me out onto the small corner of a dancing floor. No way, man. Aas much as I tout my non-Asianess, in this area, I am still very much so; awkward, stiff, and uncoordinated. Heh.
I remember one night at Yee Yi's house, it was one of the usual crazy, fun family reunions I so love. My mom and aunts tried to get Amanda and I to learn some dances, but I was too embarrassed to take it seriously. What a shame. I'm pretty sure I spent about 80% of my childhoos being embarrassed about...everything. I think perhaps tha may be why I have so little shame about many things these days (not dancing though clearly; my failed childhood experience in Reston, Virginia in that purple wedgie-perpetuating leotard scarred me for life). But I digress...
What a great night (in Porto) it was and an incredible way to end a perfect trip. Now I'm eighty hundred times more excited to take Portuguese next quarter, the classes for which I am already registered!, and well, long story long, I loved Portugal and am ecstatically looking forward to my return next month (this time to Lisboa). Eu mal posso esperar!
Monday, May 12, 2008
It has been awhile since the trip now, but there is more to be said about Porto. Here is another installment on the spectacular Portuguese extravaganzas.
Because Porto is the world's premier producer of Port wine (duh), we obviously had to try some. We crossed the Rio Douro that runs through the city and went wine tasting Croft Winery. White and red wines (Croft Fine Tawny and Croft Reserva) were sampled. Ehhh. Unfortunately, Port wine is a little too sweet to garner me as a fan, but the wine tasting was fun. What a ridiculous life I have.
Last night's pub crawl, apparently the first ever of its kind in Porto, was pretty sweet and quite the unique way to experience a city. Helena, the gf of the Italian guy who cooked us a feast the first night, took us to different clubs and bars all around Porto, and was essentially the local "in" everyone wishes for as a foreigner in a new city.
We started out at Guarany to see a Fado, traditional Portuguese folk music, show. Not to coddle its style but to put it into some frame of reference--Spain:Flamenco::Portugal:Fado. The lady who performed spoke a million languages with an impeccable accent (I want to be her!) and sang beautifully; I definitely had chills within the first few seconds.
Casa do Livro was our second stop, an antique bookstore turned sleek and chic jazz bar. It certainly trumps Jamboree by eight hundred million trillion. A front-row seat to the jazz performance (I was so close that with three steps, I could have touched all the musicians), magical music, and basically everything I could wish for in a perfect night...needless to say, I was freaking out. :)
Next up was Bad Habits, a renovated house with rooms converted into art exhibitions, smokers' social, concert show rooms, a discotheque, and other variously themed lounges. It was super boho artsy and I felt really out of place. Hah.
Stop number four was a small, dark, trendy bar with screamo music pumping, stage 4 lung cancer levels of smoke saturating the air, and lurking creepers galore. We didn't stay very long at that locale...
We spent the next hour at a local hole-in-the-wall, whose only merits were the fried chicken pastries that tasted like ham sui gok's. Tasty. Our group sat around discussing American politics (oh, the joys of pretending I am more well-informed than I really am...) and the best places to buy joints in Porto. So there's that.
Four AM eventually brought us to Bar Pinguim, where Helena used to work. Super cute and classy with black and white photographs everywhere, poetry all over the walls, and chalkable tables like the ones at Earl's Place. Helena ordered us platters of bean-looking things covered in garlic and chili to be strategically squeezed in the mouth, and a ceramic boat that was lit on fire to roast typical Portuguese chorizo eaten with fresh baguettes hot out of the oven. I felt so...authentically Portuguese.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I have found it. My favorite place in all of Europe: Portugal.
There isn't anything particularly spectacular persay about this country, but there are just so many little somethings about it that have caused me to fall in love. For one, our hostel is freaking bomb and I'm pretty sure we're cheating someone for the price we are paying. (Oporto Poets Hostel for any interested souls headed that direction.) It is immaculately clean and mod and classy and economical and comes with everything! And the lady at the front desk is hilarious. The streets and building facades are beautiful; bright splashes of color and tile and cobblestone illuminate the city. The weather is perfect. Food is cheap. People are genuinely friendly (minus the requisite creepers but that hardly fazes me these days). Ahhhhhhh.
And if this alone says anything...a few hours ago, I was just lounging out in the garden in a hammock strung up on two lemon trees, staring up at the blue sky with the sun smiling back down, munching on a crisp green apple, Seu Jorge on my iPod eventually lulling me to sweet sleep. Not only is hammocking one of my ultimate favorite pastimes, the serenely spent afternoon has been a much-needed rest after a week far too hectic for all of its two days. Mmmm.
It's so beautiful here! I know I seem to use the same adjectives to describe every trip I've gone on, every place I've been to, but they hold such different meanings each time. Venice beautiful was romantic and luminescent. Paris beautiful was classy and cultured. Switzerland beautiful was pristine and idyllic. Portugal beautiful is rustic and real, unpretentious and homey. I wish I had chosen to study abroad here...